Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast and one of the most visited cities in the Americas; and not without great reason. Tourists come in flocks to enjoy the warm tropical climate, the rich history, the perfectly preserved colonial buildings within and around the stone-walled city, and an endless fusion of gastronomic flavors, colorful culture, and beautiful islands. Cartagena has a way of charming its guests in a way that can only be felt with a visit to the enchanting city.
Being located on the northern coast of South America makes Cartagena a desirable destination for people all over the world. Its year-long tropical climate makes for a perfect winter getaway. Even during the “rainy” season, it’s typically a quick downpour, just enough to cool you off, and then the sun is shining again!
Known as “La Heroica”, Cartagena has some of the most iconic colonial walls in the world, stretching over 13 km in length around the city. These superbly preserved walls, which once defended the city from pirate attacks, stand as a testament to Cartagena’s tumultuous past. The Old Town, located within the historic walls, is visually impressive- every building, corner, and sight becomes a perfect postcard-worthy photo. A historic tour through the old district and San Felipe Castle, one of Cartagena's most iconic landmarks, gives visitors an insight into the immense history of how the city began to be what it is now. From pirates to hidden treasures to castles and cartels to revolutions, Cartagena's past is packed with enchanting stories. And just outside of Cartagena is the town of Palenque de San Basilio, the first settlement of independent slaves in the Americas celebrated for its preservation of African traditions, culture, dance, music, cuisine, and distinct creole language.
With everything from arepas to lobster, Cartagena provides for everyone’s budget and taste buds. The traditional cuisine of Cartagena is a fusion of flavors and cooking styles from traditional Colombian, island Caribbean, and African descent. While wandering through the narrow streets of the Old Town and Getsemani visitors stumble upon countless options to satisfy their tastebuds. There is everything from savory street food to epicurean gourmet dishes to fruity paletas and tres leches cake from the local bakery. For those feeling adventurous, a trip to Mercado de Bazurto is always a cultural experience. This is a place to experience everything local, the real Cartagena; gritty, smelly, unconventional, and chaotic, but also incredibly vibrant and energetic, full of exotic Colombian fruits and foods, a maze of colorful stalls, and some seriously good photo-ops!
The cultural experiences in Cartagena are endless. The city has a unique blend of European, African, and indigenous people. The music you’ll hear is everything from reggaeton to salsa to the local and most popular Afro-Colombian Champeta, a sub-genre of music originating from the coast of Colombia. Each musical style with its own origin and dance. Once the sun goes down, Cartagena comes alive and visitors can expect to hear (and see) this through the streets with everything from hip-hop street performers capturing your attention to atmospheric rooftop nightclubs with live DJs and fire-dancers to loungy cocktail bars. Stumble into the local corner bar playing bachata and find yourself stepping side-to-side to the melodic rhythm.
Keep your wallets open as you venture around because the options for shopping are diverse as well. For those who like art, Cartagena offers some elegant galleries where visitors can browse contemporary local art collections, or stroll past colorful paintings stacked against mural-filled walls on derelict buildings. Endless boutique shops showcasing Colombian-designed handicrafts, clothing, handbags, and swimwear fulfill your every need for gifts and fill your wardrobe with beautifully bold pieces to treasure.
A trip to La Serrezuela, the city's newest mall, will have you in awe as you gaze at the amazing architecture. La Serrezuela was originally built in 1893 to be the city's theatre and bullring. Over time the original building deteriorated and was abandoned until a group of investors restored the iconic structure into a cultural, entertainment, shopping, and culinary center. Based on the style of the La Alhambra in Spain, its meticulous detailing is something to be admired as you wander the wooden stadium and shop its designer boutiques. Wander the streets in the Old Town and find local artisan craftsmen selling their collections for those who love to pick up local and unique crafts. The Rosario Islands is an archipelago composed of about 30 small islands, located 1 hour off the coast of Cartagena, and is a marvel of nature to enjoy. It's Cartagena's paradise of beach-filled days, snorkeling adventures, and cocktail sunsets. The coral reefs host an abundance of colorful fauna and flora and crystal clear water that tropical paradises are made of. There are private boat options perfect for groups of friends, which hop from one island to the next to experience a full day out on the water. From partying at Cholon (party vibes on the weekend), eating fresh fish and patacones in Baru, seeing the wildlife at the Oceanario, snorkeling an underwater plane wreck off Isla Grande, relaxing at one of the many beach clubs and hotels, and having a dive at Champetua, you’ll fill your day with vibes of every kind.
Cartagena is a photographer’s dream- it's hard to find a wall or building that’s not “instagramable” and ready for a perfect national geographic moment. From the colonial architecture in the Old Town, and colorfully-dressed Palequera women with fruit baskets balanced on their heads, to mural-filled walls and umbrella-adorned alleys in Getsemani, there is a photo-op to be taken at every turn. Down every cobbled street, visitors will find adorning balconies overflowing with bougainvillea that have served as muse and inspiration to writers, painters, musicians, and lovers throughout history. One can easily spend hours strolling the streets snapping photo after photo to fill your camera roll.
And last, but not least - with direct flights from the US and Europe and such favorable currency conversions, the better question would be “why not visit?”